At the final Cooking Matters class in Lawrence, Maria couldn’t wait to show off pictures of the meal she made from the $10 challenge during the fifth week at the grocery store tour. “It blew my mind that I could make dinner for my family for less than $10. I was stunned!” The week before, Maria had attentively walked around a local grocery store with a volunteer instructor and learned how to compare unit prices, as well as how to buy fresh, frozen, and canned produce on a budget.
At the end of the tour, Maria was ready for her challenge: buy the ingredients to make a healthy meal for less than $10. “I wanted to try out the new ideas with one our family’s favorite dinners: chicken baked in tomato sauce with rice, but try to make it a little healthier and little cheaper.” Maria’s first stop was the rice. She was stunned to find that the boxed rice pilaf she normally buys cost more than five times as much per pound as the healthier alternative—plain brown rice.
As she shopped for each part of her meal, she found smart strategies to rack up the savings: grabbing store brand tomatoes for 50 cents less; trying out the chicken thighs for half the cost of breasts; and experimenting with frozen vegetables. “I never really thought about using frozen vegetables before, but couldn’t believe how much cheaper they could be compared to fresh. Hearing how the other moms incorporated them into different meals inspired me to add more vegetables to my family’s table.” After picking out a bag of frozen mixed vegetables, Maria was ready to add everything up. “Even after getting everything for dinner, I still had some money left. My family loves to freeze grapes to enjoy as a summer treat, so I grabbed a small bag that was on sale.”
In total Maria’s meal, including her family’s favorite summer dessert, came to $9.87 –meeting the challenge with a few cents to spare! She was delighted to find that she could spend less money on her groceries while sticking to a healthy diet. Even better was the fact that she didn’t have to completely abandon her family’s favorite meal. “It was great to realize I didn’t have to change everything. Just a few small tweaks, and I was able to save so much money while still keeping my family healthy and happy.”